2018 starboard stand up inflatable paddle boards best inflatable starboard sup

Welcome to our review of the 2017 Starboard 12′ Atlas Deluxe inflatable stand up paddle board. For 2017, Starboard made quite a large change in the Deluxe model line board construction, they introduced a completely new board bag and feature some unique technologies to improve the performance of their inflatable SUPs. A “more meat, less fat” approach from Starboard sees them adopting the latest Fusion Technology construction, along with Starboard’s unique 3K Carbon Rail Stringers and Dual Stringer Technology.

Starboard are one of the “founding” stand up paddle board brands. They’ve been around from day 1 of what we consider the modern paddle boarding days. A short but very full 10-12 years.

The 12′ x 33″ x 6″ Atlas Deluxe is a big board. It’s long, it’s wide but it’s a favourite flat water board in the Starboard line up. Let’s find out why.

TL;DR: The 2017 Starboard Inflatable 12′ Atlas Deluxe features excellent glide for an all round shape but is super comfortable and easy to paddle with an extremely stable 33” in width. It is a great blend of speed and stability, a fantastic cruising board that supports a lot of weight, whether it is a large paddler, or with small passengers or some adventure gear. As an all round to touring crossover, the 2017 Atlas Deluxe won’t let you down.   

The bag

The first big change we see for 2017 is the new Magic Suit Case. I think this is very close to the best inflatable paddle board bag on the market. It’s missing an internal paddle pocket and a foil lining like the 2017 Red Paddle Co bag, but as far as looks, functionality and durability, this is the bag! It features large robust wheels for easy rolling and back pack straps which can also be hidden away for when you’re not using them. A handy feature to stop them getting tangled up or caught on things. The 2017 Magic Suit Case features a full 3 side zipper to open the bag nice and wide for easy access to your board. There is plenty of space inside for a paddle and leash, plus a few bits and bobs like a wetsuit or towel. There is an internal and an external cinching/compression strap to keep everything locked down while on the go. A mesh window on the side allows for ventilation. Bag dimensions are: 43″ x 15″ x 12″.

For comparison, the Zen Bag is a great entry level inflatable SUP bag and fits the Zen models and price point well. The Deluxe bag however, uses some nicer materials, better wheels and back pack straps, 3 sides for access but with upgraded zippers, and side carry handles. It does not feature an outer pocket for the pump, but the bag has a small internal mesh pocket, is well padded and is a little bigger than the Zen so there is no issue fitting everything inside.

The pump

The Starboard pump is called the V8 Double Action Pump. It is very similar in size and shape to the Red Paddle Co Ezee HP pump. Unique features on the V8 Pump include being able to pump air into the board on both the down and up strokes, getting twice as much air into the board than regular pumps. As the pressure rises, pulling up becomes more difficult and you flip a big red lever on the main cylinder to switch the pump to down only inflation.

In this setting you can easily continue pumping up to the recommended 15-18 PSI. On the Starboards, I prefer to pump right up to the 18 PSI max so that I get the best performance.

Keeping in mind the heat and storing the board in the shade etc. The V8 pump also features a very comfortable and removable foot base. It’s feet are wide and swept back in a more ergonomical fashion. The foot pads are even contoured for the ball of your feet and you can grip with your toes. At least I can, I have the pleasure of paddling in warm weather year round and beach footwear is only ever bare foot or flip flops. Being a removable foot base, it easily unlocks and twists off to allow tighter packing in the bag.

The handle is your standard fare round grip with neatly integrated gauge. Only draw back is your t-shirt or sweater sometimes get’s sucked into the intake side of the handle. Not a big issue though as using the hose on the intake is a great way to completely suck all the air out of your board for tight packing.

Time to inflate the 2017 Atlas Deluxe to 18 PSI with the V8 Double Action pump: 4 minutes and 52 seconds. The tall dual action chamber works very well up to about 5-6 PSI, and from then on it gets a bit tricky to comfortably pull up at a good pace, so I switch it to down only and go all the way to 18 PSI. Adding in the FCS II Connect tool-less fin takes about 5 seconds. Then you’re ready for action.

The board

Now to the board. Dimensionally the same as 2016. Length of 12′, width of 33″ and thickness of 6″. The obvious colour updates hide some major construction changes. The 2017 Deluxe construction is now Fusion Technology. What does this mean? It’s a double layer of composite mesh fused in a single structure by heat lamination, a glue and solvent fee process. The durability, stiffness and toughness of a double layer construction remains but is now much lighter thanks to no glue being used in the process.

It is now also easier to roll, and it rolls tighter and fits more easily into the board bag. This lamination process is also carried out with machines thereby eliminating any hand made errors or inconsistencies. Hand made is good in some industries but sometimes machines can do a better job!

To compliment the new construction technology, Starboard carries on the Dual Stringer Technology on the deck that controls compression when a paddler stands on the board. The underside of the board is under tension, the top of the board is under compression and the rails of the board are now supported with a laminated 3K carbon stringer. Much like a stringer in a foam surfboard, or an I beam in a building, the vertically laminated 3K carbon strips on the apex of both rails through the center section, further increase the stiffness of the board. Yes, carbon is a cloth before it is bonded with resin etc, and I was a bit skeptical that these rails were carbon and would really do anything. I mean, they have to be bendy to allow the board to roll up, how are they going to help when the board is inflated? Well, boy was I wrong. I inflated the board and these laminated 3K carbon stringers in the rails are rock hard. I have a 2017 Starboard Blue Carbon Pro Performance board, so I know my way around a carbon board, and the carbon rails on the Atlas Deluxe feel rock hard when you try to press them. Sure you can push your thumb into the deck and rails where the usual PVC is, but on the 3K carbon rails, it’s like a hard board. Don’t just take my word for it, in the dealer meeting video above, Starboard designer Mathieu Rauzier, gives us a quick run down of what I just explained.

The fin arrangement also gets an update for 2017. This, the 2017 Atlas Deluxe, now features a FCS II Connect tool-less 9″ touring fin instead of the 8″ dolphin shaped center fin with FCS style side bite fins of 2016. Depending on your model of board in the Deluxe spec, you’ll get a 9″ touring or still the 8″ surf style fin with side bites.

These FCS II Connect fins take 5 seconds to install or remove. I kid you not. So easy and so convenient with an inflatable SUP. No need to fiddle with plates and screws, or 3 fins anymore! The shape of this single 9″ touring fin provides excellent tracking and grip, more so than I expected, but I’m also coming off an 8’0″ thruster fin surfing SUP. On the Atlas Deluxe I can comfortably paddle for quite a distance on just one side thanks to the board outline and fin.

The weight of the 2017 Atlas Deluxe is a svelte 23lbs, down from the 29lbs of 2016. This weight loss is primarily due to the new fusion construction. Could I try the fusion diet? Below you can slide the arrows left and right to see the tweaks to the 2017 board.


Most notable is the omission of the side bite fins in favour of the larger 9″ touring fin. You can also see the deck is now one piece to the tail, no change in thickness or texture until the kick pad all the way at the back.

More on the deck: The deck is 3mm high grade EVA square cut crocodile skin texture, with a 4mm diamond groove crocodile EVA deck with kick pad on the tail. Very comfortable to stand on and I’m a big fan of the diamond groove EVA deck on the tail. Being able to know where your foot is by the deck texture and kick pad is very helpful. Saves you looking down during an aggressive step back turn to check your footing and inevitably falling off.

Just ahead of the deck pad you’ll find a nice cargo area with 4 plastic d-rings and included bright red bungee cord. Great for holding down a cooler, some snacks, flip flops etc.

Under the nose you’ll find a d-ring. This is great for anchoring the board (yoga or fishing etc), gentle towing (not for towing behind a boat with weight on the board) and also something to grab onto if you need to pull the board behind you.

The center carry handle is padded and very comfortable. The tail mounted handed is very useful. You can easily drag the board backwards in shallow waters (watch you don’t pop the fin out), over rapids, hold it in the surf, tow someone behind you and it also doubles as a paddle holder. Open the velcro lay the paddle flat across the board, close the velcro and bam, paddle won’t float away or get in the way on the deck. A very nice feature if you want to do a bit of tanning, fishing, yoga or just need a place for the paddle while you have a rest.

The rest

All 2017 Starboard inflatable paddle boards come with a really neat lightweight ankle leash. They are a unique bungee style construction and are length matched to your board so there is no excess floating behind and tangling or getting under foot. It is very easy to install, the same process as with all leashes and the cuff is very comfortable. I’m a big fan of always using a leash when SUPing, a leash matched to your conditions of course.

The included leash is not suitable for surfing in waves or white water, it is a general use, cruise around use leash only. Weather and water conditions can change very quickly and inexperienced paddlers can be separated from their boards very quickly. I like the initiative Starboard has taken in providing a leash with each inflatable SUP sold.

Finishing off the package, there is a small repair kit. Top that all off with a new 2 year warranty from Starboard and you have a very appealing package from an experienced SUP company and their complete faith and backing in their market leading products.

On the water

I weigh 190lbs and while I’m not near the max weight for the Starboard 12′ Atlas Deluxe, I always suggest pumping to 18PSI, the maximum suggested pressure, to ensure you get the best performance from this board, or any Starboard. I usually paddle on the ocean and it tends to be a bit choppier. A nice calm lake and I could probably get away with lower pressure but when it takes less than 5 minutes to inflate to the 18PSI, I figure it’s just better to go all the way.

I’m usually paddling my (new) 8′ x 28″ carbon wave board so jumping on this board is like stepping onto a barge. It is big, wide and oh so easy to paddle. For a wide board, the tracking and glide is surprisingly good. Usually a wider board won’t glide so well but this one carries it’s width mostly in the forward section and tapers to a narrow tail, rather than holding the width all the way back as some other boards do, like the Red Paddle Co 12’6″ Sport or 12’6″ Explorer. The tracking from the new FCS II Connect tool-less fin which is absolutely AWESOME! These fins make installing and removing a fin so incredibly quick and easy, it used to be such a pain in the butt having to fiddle with the screw and little metal plate and trying to feed it into the slot etc. This fin takes all of 5 seconds to install or remove and the 9″ touring swept back shape offers excellent tracking and won’t snag on weed or such. With the right technique, you could paddle your whole season on just one side, well almost.

The board is fairly flat, and by that I mean there isn’t much nose kick. This helps for stability, to carry larger loads, improves tracking but does mean it is a little more susceptible to side chop. The nose does catch a bit but since it is the 6″ Deluxe construction instead of the thinner 4.75″ Zen construction, at my weight, it is a better choice as when the nose does get caught, it is thick enough to just push through and carry on unfazed.

The square cut deck pad is very comfortable under foot and the center and tail handles are very easy to grab and carry the board.

Vitals

  • Length: 12′
  • Width: 33″
  • Tail width: 17.5″
  • Thickness: 6″
  • Volume: 364 liters
  • Weight: 23.2 lbs board only
  • Max payload: 265 lbs/120 kg
  • Fins: FCS Connect 9″ fin
  • Warranty: 2 years

Likes

  • Industry leading fusion construction finish and packaging, looks and feels like a hard board
  • Huge deck area to comfortably move around on or carry things
  • Exceptional tracking and glide, and very stable and easy to paddle
  • Includes ankle leash
  • Simple and quick FCS II Connect tool-less fin system
  • Double action pump is compact and the pump switch over process is easy
  • Double texture deck pad for footing feedback
  • Eco conscious packing minimising plastic waste
  • 2 year warranty. I doubt you’ll have issues, but it’s good to see a brand stand behind their product

Dislikes

  • Harder to turn than I’m used to, but to be expected of a board this size
  • I wish the bag had a 3 piece paddle pocket

In conclusion

The 2017 Starboard 12′ Atlas Deluxe is an incredibly stable and easy inflatable paddle board for bigger paddlers to cruise on, or paddlers who want to carry a child, a pet, fishing gear or other adventure gear. Cruising off the beach, longer touring trips, fishing, slow moving rivers, bays, inlets, intra-coastals, tropical islands, even SUP yoga, this board can do it all. It is plenty stable with a wide forward section. A tapering tail promotes good glide and tracking, with support for the FCS II Connect tool-less 9″ touring fin.

Find out more here: 2017 Starboard Atlas Deluxe.

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a hockey fan, football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.

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